Friday, August 16, 2019

Draft Final PA Chesapeake Bay Implementation Plan Increases Water Pollution Reductions; Cost Of Plan Has Gone Up

On August 16, DEP presented Pennsylvania’s final draft Chesapeake Bay Watershed Implementation Plan to the PA Chesapeake Bay Watershed Implementation Plan Steering Committee.
The final draft Plan lays out the steps Pennsylvania intends to take to meet its 2025 nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment reduction goals over the next 7 years.
DEP says its final draft Plan now meets 73 percent of its 2025 nitrogen reduction goal and 121 percent of its phosphorus goal.
The state’s draft WIP achieved 64 percent of the nitrogen and 76 percent of the phosphorus needed to meet Pennsylvania’s 2025 goals.
DEP said again, it is committed to meeting 100 percent of the 2025 goals through adaptive management, counting reductions from previously undocumented programs and new initiatives.
Funding Gap
DEP estimates the annual gap in funding to implement the recommended final draft Plan has increased to $324.2 million, up from $257 million for the draft Plan, in each of the next 7 years to meet the 2025 goals.
The FY 2019-20 final state budget included only $6 million in additional funding for farm conservation practices and cut $16 million in funding from Environmental Stewardship (Growing Greener) funding that could have helped fund local watershed restoration projects..
If state funding levels remain the same as they are now, Pennsylvania could not achieve the pollution reduction goals it is obligated to meet much before 2044-- 19 to 20 years late.
Bay Manager Leaving
One other announcement made at the meeting was that Veronica “Nicki” Kasi, DEP’s Chesapeake Bay Program Manager who oversaw the stakeholder-driven development of the Phase III Watershed Implementation Plan, is retiring in the very near future.
Pennsylvania must submit its final Watershed Implementation Plan to EPA on August 23.
Some Changes Made
Among the changes made in the draft final Plan--
-- Documenting reductions made by other existing DEP programs but not counted before: oil and gas permitting, wetlands mitigation, Volkswagen settlement nitrogen reductions, abandoned mine reclamation, brownfield cleanups, nutrient trading, Dirt and Gravel Roads Program and Chapter 102 post construction activities reductions.
-- Other New or Expanded Initiatives-- 
     -- Onsite septic management
     -- Center for Water Quality Excellence to coordinate DEP Bay Office and PennVEST to fill gaps in services and funding
      -- PA Agriculture Conservation Stewardship Program enacted as part of the PA Farm Bill signed into law in July is to start implementation in January 2020
     -- Expanded Northcentral Stream Restoration Initiative, a partnership of DEP, the Fish & Boat Commission and Northcentral Conservancy
     -- State agencies would be required to develop plans for managing their own lands to reduce nutrients
Implementation Action Team
DEP said it intends to form a Phase III Watershed Implementation Action Team to help monitor and guide the implementation of the final Plan, along with continued involvement of work groups on specific elements.
DEP expects implementation to start in September even before Pennsylvania receives formal comments on the final Plan from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Pennsylvania is the linchpin to meeting all the water pollution reduction objectives in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.  If Pennsylvania fails to meet its goals, so will the entire effort.
That’s why there have been recent rumblings in Maryland and Virginia about a fresh lawsuit against Pennsylvania for not meeting its clean water obligations.
The actual final draft Plan has not been posted yet on DEP’s website.  Visit the PA Chesapeake Bay Watershed Implementation Plan Steering Committee webpage for available handouts, when posted.
Visit the PA Phase 3 Watershed Implementation Plan webpage for the final Plan, when posted.
Related Articles:
Op-Ed: Conservation Efforts Lose Out In State Budget - Len Lichvar
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